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School News

It has been a long process, but the bees have returned to Thomas Jefferson High School. Approximately 2 1/2 years ago, high school Gifted Support teacher, Dan Giger, with the help of then-novice beekeepers Laurie Woodward, her husband Jason Woodward, and mentor, professional Chris Varo of Sonny Rose Ranch, started an Apiary Club. The intention of the club was, and still is, to teach interested students about bees and their intricate relationship with nature and humans.

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The TJ Apiary Club also gives students hands-on experience with working in the hives. The initial hives had a great beginning with growth and honey production but, as often happens in the challenging world of beekeeping, they succumbed and eventually died off. Laurie Woodward believes that one of the hives was infested with wax moths, which will invade a hive when it is weak and whose larvae will burrow through and destroy honeycomb. The other hive suffered for unknown reasons; it could have been natural stresses, lack of a strong queen or any number of other reasons.

With the demise of the hives, a push was started by the club to bring back the bees.  In the spring of 2022, in conjunction with the celebration of Earth Day, a highly successful T-shirt fundraiser was launched with enthusiastic student body participation, especially at the elementary level. Enough funds were raised to allow for the purchase of two new starter hives, which were placed at the beginning of summer. These hives were later added to when the Woodwards were able to secure a bee swarm and start a third hive in the apiary.

During the summer break, the hives were checked and managed by the Woodwards and Mr. Giger. This fall the Apiary Club got back into full swing with meetings during the schools PLT sessions. Some of the activities included; voting for club officers, building new bee boxes, and fitting for newly purchased bee suits. The club members also had their first exposure inside a working beehive as the Woodwards did a hive check and pest treatment.

The current state of the bees is encouraging, although one of the hives was again lost for unknown reasons, the surviving two seem strong enough to make it through winter and into next spring. It was decided that no honey would be removed from the hives this fall to ensure that the bees have enough, upwards of 60 pounds, to make it through the cold weather. Moving forward, the plan for the spring is to split the surviving hives and to create new hives that the students will have complete control over managing. With any luck the honey will be flowing again soon and we will be able to offer late spring or early summer sales.

The Apiary Club would like to offer special thanks to the WJHSD school board, Superintendent Dr. Janet Sardon, and all those who have helped support the Apiary Club by participating in our fundraising efforts and/or by providing their expertise.

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